Fox Tales (Kitsune no Hanashi) is a Japanese compendium of short horror stories: “Fox Tales”, “The Dragon in the Fruit”, “Phantom”, and “The Water God” penned from the mind of Tomihiko Morimi and published in English by Yen Press. Morimi is most notable as the author of The Eccentric Family, Penguin Highway, The Night is Young, Walk on Girl, and The Tatami Galaxy, with these novels having each inspired an anime adaptation.

In this collection of four spooky tales for the modern era, all are tied to a certain Kyoto curio shop. A basket wriggles, a masked man lingers in the dark, and things are offered, lost, and forgotten. What mysteries lie hidden in the city’s winding streets? Tomihiko Morimi offers a stylish glimpse into the beguiling and mysterious darkness of the old capital.

Following the typical style of Momori, Fox Tales rarely focuses on an outright horror scenario full of visceral carnage. Instead, each story employs an adept level of unsettling ambiance that only seems to increase as they progress. Skillfully intertwining traditional Japanese folklore with a modern-day setting, a number of these unsettling moments in each story derive from a ‘story within a story’ motif. The reciting of past supernatural events to the main character, and by extension the reader, link to a certain event or item. Alluding to the possibility that an unreliable narrator might possibly be embellishing the truth, potentially intending ill intent through withholding the truth or conveying misinformation.

Additionally, each story delivers a profound sense of realism through the incredibly detailed world crafted by Momori, effortlessly enforcing this blend of historical supernatural elements with the contemporary backdrop in the mystical, ancient streets of Kyoto. Each story, though varying in pacing due to a differentiating narrator, all retain the same basic premise—the monotony of everyday life is forever changed by a brush with the supernatural. Although these mystical events are never explored in full detail, the air of mysticism that is left surrounding these events further compounds effective realism skillfully portrayed.

Fox Tales Yen Press

Unfortunately, although all four stories are tied to the curio shop, Hourendou, this establishment only plays a major role in “Fox Tales” and “The Dragon in the Fruit”. Lacking any significant involvement in the latter two stories and, instead, taking on a rather negligible part in the hindmost half of the book. Undoubtedly, the main allure of these curious tales is Hourendou itself, and, as such, it’s a shame that the antique store didn’t receive similar treatment to the foremost. That notwithstanding, “Phantom” and “The Water God” can hardly be considered inferior due to its prevalence, still retaining the mystifying allure prevalent in the first two.

In terms of the physical release, Yen Press has produced a beautiful hardback edition worthy of these elegantly crafted tales of lingering creepiness. Featuring a slipcover with incredible artwork from Gaku Nakagawa, presenting a beautifully simple design utilizing contrasting binary colours that perfectly represent the dimly lit alleys these sorts of shops reside in. There are, unfortunately, one or two slight blemishes in the print, however, the font is still perfectly legible and it in no way causes any issues whilst reading.

With an exceptional proliferation of persisting chills, Fox Tales successfully instills a slow-burning horror, perfect for fans of more subtly in their scares. With absorbingly well-written characters, an elegant implementation of world-building, and a handful of mild twists to boot; each story offers something uniquely different from the previous. Yet, the works still retain a residual, eerie sensation prevalent over each, expertly ascertained through Tomihiko Morimi’s purposeful craftsmanship.

Fox Tales is available to purchase on hardback and digital download from Yen Press’ website.

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